Soaking up a culture is not complete without really having tickled your tastebuds with the traditional cuisine of that place. And that is what I am going to do today. Let us take a culinary tour with my suggestions of 5 things to experiment with while in Dubai.
Being nomadic tribes, the traditional Arabic food used to be cooked in a single pot on fires lit where their tents pitched. The flavours were rich with lots of spices and meat. But this does not mean, that the vegetarians will get lost here. In my picks are two specific vegetarian dishes typical of the country. So, let’s not salivate more and take the journey together.
1) Al Machboos
A combination of Rice, Meat, Onions and lots of spices, this dish used to be prepared in those large pots that I spoke about earlier. The speciality ingredient here that one talks of is dried lemon or loomy. A favourite during festivals and weddings, this dish is very popular across the United Arab Emirates. The meat in this dish can vary between Chicken to Lamb meat, depending the occasion during which it is prepared.
2) Al Harees
This is made with wheat and meat and has the traditional rich flavors that have been used for margination overnight. This dish is popular during the Ramzan months. The meat generally, used is lamb meat. The dish is served with a topping of the local ghee on it.
Though originally Lebanese, this dish is extremely popular in the Arab world and you can definitely sample the authentic taste in Dubai. Made from Chicken or Lamb, this is grilled slowly and mixed with pickle and tomatoes. This is served as a stuffing in the Arabic Roti along with a few vegetables.
Finally, something for the vegetarians and one of their most popular dishes world wide, Hummus is made of Chickpeas, Tahini (paste made for Sesame seeds), garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Often served as side dish, this can be teamed with the traditional Arabic breads- Khubz or the Pita Bread. For the non-vegetarians, this is an excellent accompaniment with Shawarma.
Now almost like street food, Falafels are made with chickpeas and spices. Again an option for all my vegetarian friends, this is served as a side dish with hummus. Alternatively, you can opt for the Falafel sandwich – with these falafel stuffed in the Arabic pita bread, along with lots of fresh vegetables, hummus and tahini.
While you are at it, don’t miss a small bite of their traditional desserts like the creamy Umm Ali (made with pistachios, pine nuts and almond) and Esh Asarya (a type of Cheese cake).
While I have mentioned the 5 dishes that are easily available in any Arabic restaurant in Dubai, this blog will not be complete without the mention of the most exotic dish of all. Camel meat or Camel Turducken is an extremely rare and special in this part of the world. Prepared for the weddings, especially those of the Sheikh, this has been recording as the world’s largest meal in the Guinness Book of Records. This can be literally described as different meat within the meat. It involves stuffing of the camel meat with lamb, chicken, eggs, fish and rice. The entire dish is marinated overnight and then cooked for a complete day in earthen pots. This is special to the weddings and is not readily available in the restaurants. So if you get a special invite from the Royal families, don’t forget to try it! 😉
Happy eating! And if you want to know how to say that in Arabic, take a peek at this quick guide to Arabic. You might just learn a few phrases that could get you some extra brownie points with your Arab host.